Category Archives: Personal Growth

Here You Go

Problem solving has been an important part of my job description for as long as I can remember.  I like to put on the detective hat and sift through things to find the parts that are important, put them together in the right configuration and arrive at a solution.  Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to figure out and sometimes plenty about the situation is a bit ambiguous.

 

There is one thing about problem solving that got old a long time ago, but is part and parcel of the problem solver’s lot in my experience.  It is the person who makes it a habit to hand over partial information, or fragments here and there in multiple email or phone messages.  They want you to solve it, but they can’t be bothered to try to put anything together in any sort of cohesive single place.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I’ll take the person who isn’t sure what they want or need kind of problem over the person who dumps a mess every time.  Most times.  Every once in a while I use the big mess as an excuse to be left alone to puzzle it all into something coherent.  But mostly I see it as a different facet of rude.  That person’s time is more important than mine.  (Though I concede that there may be other ways of looking at it…)

 

Sigh.  Focus on the boost that I hope to get upon resolution and not on the drudgery of slogging through the junk. This is why there are stories of the really good stuff one can find hidden in junk.  Think of ways to prevent the junk dump from repeat offenders.  Get caught up in the chase for the best solution.

 

Don’t be a here you go, dump and run person.  Please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Galloping or Inching

Progress is progress I tell myself on a regular basis – whether by inches or gallops.  I need this reminder because inches don’t feel like progress, especially when new things get added on faster than stuff gets done.  (Clearly this is on my mind, I return to some version of this theme quite a lot lately.)  Did I push it forward, or can I change the priority, or can I get some help?

 

Most people I know, particularly women, focus on all the things yet to do which makes it harder to feel like progress has been accomplished at all.  There is always more to get done, it doesn’t matter what you are talking about – personal, professional, family household, etc.  Relentless obligations.  Job security.  Life in our modern, complex world.

 

We want to gallop through our endless lists, but mostly we inch.

 

Inches matter and they do add up, but sometimes we have to remember where we started at to see how far we have come.  Reminding myself of the steps that I have taken that day to affect progress is a habit that I work to keep up.  Done, started, planned, researched, delegated, reprioritized.  Don’t spend all the time looking at what hasn’t yet been done.  Breathe, and then review what was accomplished at the end of each day – work and personal.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I admit to being better at sharing this nugget with others than I can be at following it for myself.  Although this is one of the ways that I put myself on the path to being a reformed perfectionist years ago.  (It is a path with no finish.)

 

A coworker came across a free webinar offering about remarkable women in leadership roles and sent out an invitation for anyone interested to join her in her office for this presentation.  A handful of us expressed interest and so spent an hour together listening and actively thinking about where we are and where we could be.  This aspect of accomplishment came up in relationship to confidence.

 

If a women is apt to focus on this things yet to do then she is less likely to feel confident in her abilities.  A rearranged focus that acknowledges the things completed or well on their way is a step toward confidence.  Doubt loses some of its foot-hold.

 

I wanted to ask my coworkers a bit about this and some of the other points from the presentation, but since we had spent an hour listening everyone felt pressed to get back to their lists of to-dos.  The march to inch forward.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Many Things Can Your Mind Juggle?

Back in my early adulthood, I thought I was overwhelmed when I had a couple of issues at the same time; say one personal and one work issue.  Mind boggled.  But I slowly adjusted and found that I could handle a couple of different issues at the same time and maintain regular stuff as well.

 

Then I had kids and had to mentally juggle my stuff, house stuff and their stuff.  Sometimes I missed a few balls, but I did pretty well because there became an ebb and flow to activity that followed the school year.  My mind could rest a bit here and there.

 

I’ve had periods, sometimes years, when I had to adjust to constant mental juggling, without the relief of that ebb in activity.  Mostly I think I met the challenge.  Often by letting less important things fall to the wayside for a bit.

 

I was told once, by someone who should know, that our minds are suited to holding 7-9 thoughts or ideas in short term memory.  Any more and something has to go to long term memory or get dropped off the mental cliff.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

So this idea of time management (and information management) is more than being in the right place at the right time with the right tools, it is conquering your short term and long term memory capabilities – because I know plenty of people, particularly women, who are trying to shove 25 items into their short term memory and feeling frazzled as a result.

 

I just rewrote my current to-do list of reasonably important tasks, appointments and such.  (Yes, still using pen and paper because that act helps me to keep everything clear.)  I am scheduling a roof replacement that has been on my list for about 3 years.  (The contractor said he has seen worse roofs, but I don’t want to get backed into that corner so getting this off my list will be a relief.  The next heavy rain won’t make me cringe.)

 

A few things were completed and didn’t have to be carried over onto the new list.  And a couple of things came up in the intervening time and had to be done without even making it onto the official list.  I remembered a few things that should have been on the last list, but got lost in the nether regions of my mind.  Plus a few new things.  So the list is longer and looks like I haven’t gotten anything done.  (Sigh.)

 

How many things can you mind juggle?  And do you live with the constant sense that you are forgetting something?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Perception of Control

I feel compelled by circumstances to write on this topic.  In a short span I came across the following links that relate to the topic of control and our perception of our level of control:

3 Reasons You Can’t Climb Out of Your Financial Hole

TheRealMikeRowe on Facebook – 4/19/14 Saturday Mail Call

 

So if I start out this post about control saying that I feel compelled to do something, then who has control?  Well I do, because I didn’t have to pay attention to the forces that happened to bring these examples to me within minutes of each other.  But I am also aware of the influence and how it affects my behavior.  How many people live their lives with a high perception of a lack of control?

 

Too bad we can't have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

We can’t control the weather.

I learned early on that I operate better when I have structure, so I created structure when the situation didn’t provide it.  I see this as a gift of my melancholy.  I also learned that this awareness seems to be rare.  There is an assumption that control is held by others in many instances.

 

If we assume that the control is held by others, then we abdicate any control that we might hold in a given situation.  And it might be that the overall control is held by someone else – but there are almost always aspects of control that we might be able to hold if not wield.

 

The example that comes to mind is the jury that I sat on over 10 years ago.  (Fascinating experience – I highly recommend it, but found it hard to balance my life for those 5 days.)  The young man was on trial for murder because he drove the car in a drive by shooting.  Had he exerted control that night and not taken his crew for that ride, instead followed his original plans to go on a date, there is a high potential that none of us would have been there those January days.  Had his lawyers exerted some control and put up some sort of defense, he might not have been found guilty.

 

I could go on with that more extreme example.  There are plenty of examples every day.  Maybe someone regularly interrupts you at the office.  You could find a firm and suitable response that lets that person know you will find them when you are available instead of letting the interruptions continue.

 

I thought it was interesting that most of the comments that I read through on the financial article didn’t address the points of the article at all, rather unconsciously reinforced the first point that many people have a perception of lack of control over their own financial solutions.  Awareness of where you might take control, no matter how small, is a first step.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Complaint or Solution?

It’s been a long week of varying sized hassles after last week’s hassles and the week before that.  Hassles, snarls, frustrations – don’t have to move very far in any particular direction to slam into one.  It is what it is.  Job security.  Life.

public domain image

public domain image

 

 

“If they would just…” begins the statement – ‘they’ being some power-that-be at work – and so formulates the complaint.  ‘They’ should fix something to make my work go more smoothly.  I can’t meet my deadlines because ‘they’ make the process more difficult.  And on and on in hundreds of permutations goes the complaint.

 

More personally, ‘she’ – when a person accepts a position as a boss that person must expect to become part of ‘they’, a representative of management induced worker frustrations – ‘she’ expects too much.  (If you aren’t ready or willing to be ‘she’ or ‘he’ – personally representing ‘they’ – then think twice about being a boss.  It comes with the territory, even in the best of circumstances.)

 

The complaints slip out as an easy release when coworkers talk in pairs or groups.  Sensible, short term stress relief.  But also potentially toxic.

 

Complaints aren’t a be all and end all, but a starting point for a solution.  If you want something to get better a complaint by itself isn’t going to accomplish anything.  A complaint by itself is an abdication of any responsibility for improvement.  A complaint by itself is acceptance of the hassle as part of your lot.

 

com·plaint Dictionary.com

[kuhm-pleynt]

noun

  1. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment,or grief; lament; faultfinding:
  2. his complaint about poor schools.

 

In order for a complaint to become an effective long term method for hassle reduction, it has to move into being a solution.

 

I’ve seen the echo of ‘she’ coworker complaints on plenty of faces over the years.  More than I can count.  But I can count the number of times that someone on my team has come forward to ask for clarification, to talk further, to want to discuss a potential solution.  And I don’t mean guns blazing accusations, but measured discussion.  Seeking understanding.  I wish I could say this approach was utilized more.

 

Nobody really intends to create hassles – well, ok some small subset of the population gets a kick out of it.  Plans filter down from senior management to middle management to the people that get it done day after day.  Honest discussions about improving the plan can happen at any level.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Change: Affinity vs. Ability

Life is so much nicer all around when we like what is happening; what we are doing, where we are living and so on.  Sometimes we forget that there is a difference between liking, affinity, and skill at a task, or ability.  We all have skills that we could use to our advantage but often don’t because we just don’t have the affinity.

 

I’ve met plenty of people who, without saying it straight up, think that they will know they are on the right track because everything will snap into place – life will be easier and smoother if they are in the right place.  If things are difficult, it must be the wrong direction or place or whatever.  How many times have you been in a discussion with someone who shuts you down on a topic with something like, ‘oh, I’m not any good at (fill in the blank)’?

 

The world is ever changing.  (public domain image)

The world is ever changing. (public domain image)

Math doesn’t have any sort of magic for me like words do, I just don’t have much of an affinity.  But I have come to understand the importance of having a math competency – in financial dealings at the very least.  I will never gravitate to math, but I can be proud that I can master the more important math concepts and make use of them in my life.  And I have discovered that there are fascinating parts of math – statistics and economics do stir my curiosity.

 

We don’t get to arrange all of the pieces of our lives so that we can focus only on those things that we like.  (We’re lucky to arrange most of them, the big ones hopefully.)  And it isn’t always clear to see when you are on the right track, because that track might be just as bumpy and difficult as the wrong one.

 

Writing is a skill that makes plenty of people grimace, I both understand and feel consternated about this fact.  But like math for me, it is an ability that can be developed to serve your overall purpose.  You can like what a competency in a certain skill brings you without having an affinity for the concepts of the skill.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The 7 10 Split

The pins are as far apart as they can be and still be on the same lane.  It is still your turn, and mathematically speaking you can pick up this spare.  But it takes skill, calm and a confluence of several factors.  Bowling as life lesson, not just beer swilling league fun.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

I bet if you start to think about it, you will remember one and then another and another instance when you had two elements that were supposed to be working together or part of a larger whole in some way that were far apart and working independently to inhibit the larger goal.  (Passively, as in the case with the pins, or less so.)  There are ways to get these elements back into the larger plan, but it could take cunning – at the very least it will take time and effort on your part to figure out a solution and implement it.

 

I bowled on leagues on and off for years and I’ve been involved in volunteer groups, training sessions and plenty of office situations and only just this morning had the realization that there are parallels in these set ups.  From a higher level strategic point of view, there are similarities in the solutions.  I, or you, have to figure out the trajectory that will bring the elements together and keep the game going.  Now in life we probably don’t want to violently knock one element into or against the other – particularly since quite often these elements will be people.  Co-workers, vendors, colleagues, partners.

 

Sometimes the straightforward, ‘hey where are you at with your part of this project’, approach works like a charm.  Sometimes a bit of cajoling and sometimes it is a grueling game of inching the parties closer together.  It can be an endurance test for us, a question of keeping up our energy and resolve – keeping our eyes on the intended end.  Mentally testing out different solutions for alignment and success.

 

Then stepping up to the lane, ball in hand, squaring our shoulders, positioning our feet, eyes set on the pins at the other end.  Stride up, swing the ball and let it go.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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